Russia is among the top five deadliest places to report news in the world.
Why is that? History of Conflict
The limited press freedom that journalists face is very well maintained throughout the country and has been for hundreds of years. The government views local journalists that continuously criticize and speak out against the Kremlin as threats. So, government officials take action.
According to the CPJ, 36 journalists have been murdered in Russia since 1992. Most of the journalists that were murdered were print reporters or editors. Every single murder investigation and case of journalists, there has been no accused killer or named assassin. Every single case has been unsolved in terms of who is responsible.
All of the reporters that were murdered were native to Russia. The beats that they were covering mostly consisted of corruption, crime, and politics.
A reported 89% of these journalists had complete impunity. The highest percentage of assassins behind these murders is given to government officials followed by gangs.
Why are they unsolved?
Most investigators are afraid of repercussions from the government if they carry out their normal duties according to The Guardian. The police have the will to fully process each murder, but most murders took place in small towns so higher positions of authority “stop justice in its tracks.”
“To be a journalist in Russia is suicide. It is suicide if you talk about the truth.”
-Vladimir Yurov, The Guardian.
The Russian government maintains this integrity because there is still numerous attacks on journalist every year and for every attack there are hundreds of threats.
Journalists who work at independent news agencies are more vulnerable to attacks and threats then those who work for state owned media. The suspicion and violence that the government releases on its reporters has become they new standard of society in Russia.
Why are the Independent Media Still Around?
The main reason that Russia keeps their independent news outlets is because of pressure from the West. Most politicians in Russia have real estate or ties to other countries in various forms and dissolving independent media within their country would cause huge issues with the West, according to The Guardian.
Foreign Journalists in Russia
Most reporters coming into Russia are not in that much danger when working in Russia. Foreign journalists do not know the full extent of the underlying issues and risks that local journalists do in Russia.
Foreigners only capture the glimpse of what is really going on within the country. So, they do not pose a threat to the government and as a result they are safer than the native journalists.
However, even though foreign journalists are not in any physical danger, they are very limited in the amount of information that they receive. The most difficult city to report in is Moscow, because it is the central hub of Russia and where the Kremlin resides.
According to Business Ukraine, there Russians that are willing to go to Ukraine to carry out murders of Ukrainian reporters. However, this is not as likely because the majority of foreign reporters that work in Moscow mostly come out with biased or misleading information rather than being in any true danger.
Mapping The Risk
Above are a few of the recent threats and detained journalists in Russia. Although there are no current maps of areas where journalists have been murdered, detained, or threatened, most of them happen in small town areas away from big crowds.
The Kremlin knows that they would draw too much attention and create panic if they were to assassinate journalists in high traffic areas. But, that does not mean they have completely strayed away from that. No matter where the journalist is murdered, the investigation will not come to fruition because of the pressure from higher authority in the justice system.
I am a Caucasian woman from the United States. I would face limited information in terms of facts and sources if I were to report in Russia. I would possibly receive threats from the government if I wrote an opposition piece but the level of physical danger would be very low. I would have a hard time getting to know locals in Russia and I would get a very biased and one-sided view of the country and the current issues within the country.
Any piece I would write would most likely get trolled by paid government supporters advocating for Putin.
Since I am a Catholic, I would not necessarily face any issues in terms of religion. The difference in religion within Russia is not something of danger or high concern.
I am a straight woman, so I would have no target on my back in terms of sexual orientation. If I had not been straight, I would face a high level of ridicule and danger as being homosexual is a crime and most Russians feel very strongly about gay laws.
As for weather, I would not face high exposure but I would have to be aware of the colder climates that are prevalent in Russia.
For the most part, it is safe for me to report in Russia and I would not have that many issues reporting. However, I would get skewed information about Russia from various sources. The only way I believe I could get a true sense of Russia is if I lived there for a few years and did some reporting after I lived like a local for some time.
I would have to adjust to the lack of press freedom and speech freedom. I would have to be more careful about what I say, who I say it to, and where I say it. I would have to tone down my level of freedom and become more restricted and oppressed if I wanted to report in Russia or have any influential say in the current issues.
Current Threat Level
Based on my research, the same level of threat of journalists in Russia remains to be very high and very deadly. There is no indication that Russia will ease up on their restrictions any time soon.
The majority of those being killed are men, so women are among those who are safer when it comes to targeted journalists. But, depending on the level of influence for a given reporter, they are at risk of danger.
There is no real bias when it comes to those reporters in danger. The basis for threats and attacks are more geared towards their work and what they publish that seems like a threat to the Kremlin.
This Weeks Coverage
April 28th, 2016: According to The Guardian, Vladimir Putin and the Russian Federation fully support and are reacting positively to Donald Trump becoming the next possible US President.Russia has stated that they are accepting of Trump’s foreign policy ideas. Also, Russia praises Trump for his willingness to negotiate and not be in conflict with the Kremlin as the current US administration is now. The Guardian did a good job of displaying all of the facts in how Russia is responding to Trump’s allegations and their views on him and the future. This article also talked about other countries and their views of Trump that was all negative besides Russia. I think this article is very interesting in how world leaders view the US’s presidential race.
May 2nd, 2016: The Moscow Times reports on Vladimir Putin signing a new law that allows foreign refugees to become a Russian citizen faster. The government formerly had foreign refugees wait for a year to become a citizen while the necessary steps were taken to provide them with citizenship. Now, they are able to be given permits to where they can get housing before becoming locals in Russia. This was mostly geared toward Ukrainian refugees. Refugees can voluntary participate in the resettlement program before having Russian residency. The Times gave out all the necessary information needed for the reader to understand that their are new laws in place and the extent of what the law now is without giving out too much information and boring the readers.